Friday, April 29

A Riotous Tale - another car incident!

Feeling a bit better...but feeling awful that I gave the dang cold to somebody. Sorry CG.

I promise you a riotous tale - I shall try to do the whole thing justice. Without getting too wordy. Yeah, good luck with that.

I know this happened in August - because we had just returned from Virginia Beach. I had been there as a group of about 5 "church ladies". Just a relaxing 3 day weekend at the beach - reading, eating seafood, having a spot of wine. My sister Karen was one of the gang at the beach. We had a wonderful time. Then Karen and I drove back together in her white Jetta.

She even remarked along the way how much she loved that car. We talked about the great gas mileage and whether it being white was a good or bad thing. She dropped me and my stuff off at the house and headed down to the river house to meet up with Denise. I got in the shower.

When I got out the answering machine was beeping. And my cell had a couple missed calls. So I hit the button and got this message from Mom (you will have to imagine this in my mother's voice...a surface tension of calm - covering a desperate sense of urgency...) "Chris, when you get this message (when else? before I get it?) give me a call, ok? Karen's car has gone in the river and we may need your help (um....what?)."

Got to admit my curiosity was piqued - so I called. And the basic premise of the conversation was I should come on down to the river because Karen was upset. So I went.

I expect to arrive to cars everywhere and the swat team overhead - at least a few rednecks and a coon hound or two. I was not prepared for what was there.


No cars there at all.

What the?

Okay, so it turned out that Denise had gone to pick up Jack or something - and Mom was probably going to get pizza or something. But it was like I had been Punked. Especially when I got out of my car and walked to the edge of the bank.

Because there was no car in the river either.

Then I saw Dad coming toward me - he had been tying a float to the car so we could tell where it was if it rolled and went deeper. When standing on the roof of the car his shoulders just broke the water. Now THAT is a car in the water.

I'm sure that Denise will be happy to share sometime about the part that I did NOT see - the actual car rolling down the bank. And tales from others as it sank...there are some fantastic quotable moments in that hour that I lost in the tale. My favorite quote "wow, it sinks a lot faster now that the windows are rolled down."

I went and put on a swimsuit so that I could see this for myself. My nephew Jack and I had a wondrous time viewing the surreal underwater picture through our goggles. I could see the empty bag from Karen & I's snack stop in Crewe: Chocolate Caramel Bugles. Jack was dying to have an excuse to rescue her luggage from the trunk. I had to warn him how deadly entering the vehicle would be - but we had a great time looking in from the outside.

Little by little everyone returned to the river and the plan was conveyed to me: our friend Pete was going to bring his wrecker by and we were going to find a way to drag her car out of the river. We had to lie to her for a while and make her believe that everything would be fine with the car if it just dried out. She was pretty devastated.

Because I can hold my breath the longest (yeah - insert joke here) I was elected to be the salvage diver. When Pete got there with the wrecker (there is some sidebar here about him coming to do this even though he was out on his first date with a new girlfriend...yeah, one of my sisters holds unusual sway over this man...) we came up with this plan: I would dive down and attach a chain to the tow hook on the back of the Jetta, then Dad in the canoe would hand me the big winch hook from the tow truck to attach to a loop in the chain.

Several things went wrong in this scenario. Once I made the loop and attached to the car, I could hang on the chain with one hand and just barely keep my head out of the water. The distance from my fingertips to my mouth is apparently a finite distance. So that was bad thing one. Bad thing two was a miscommunication between the canoe team and the water team. The canoe team decided that the proper delivery method of a giant iron hook would be to toss it at me. The water team disagreed.

So then we re-set and tried more of a handoff, but this caused the problem of a canoe repeatedly smacking me in the head. While treading water. And hanging on to a chain by my fingertips.

But through determination and teamwork (?) we got the winch attached to the car - and though I believe I heard that the tow truck's front end raised up a few feet off the ground during the process - the car was released from its watery grave.

And we took all her luggage out of the car (3 day trip to the beach - so of course she had 3 suitcases and a hanging bag) and I took it home and washed everything that night. And sat for 2 hours and dried every piece of jewelry from her bag (I believe there were 70 pairs of earrings alone). And we still lied to her and told her that her car was going to be all right.
But we knew in our hearts...she was gone.

And now she will always be to me, sort of an angel...the spirit of a car who lived well and died young...before her time. The White Submarine.

Cool aftermath? A month or so later, Pete sent me $75 that he had charged the insurance company for hiring a salvage diver to attach the wrecker to the car. Geico probably wondered how they got off so cheap.

Karen has learned to laugh about it now. But it took awhile. Sometimes these things take time. Maybe someday somebody else I know will be able to laugh about that accidental porn incident in Sunday school.

But that is a tale for another day!! Unless the proper bribe is placed.

Hamster needs Sushi!

Wednesday, April 27

stay tuned...

The hamster is ill. And mentally tired.

It's just a darn sinus cold thing. And this is probably the worst day of it - if it goes the same direction as every other sinus cold thing I get. Head stopped up for a day, moves into my chest the next day or so, 90% of the this leads to either sinusitis or bronchitis. Fever. Antibiotic. Then better.

I know that I am whining.

But that is why there isn't a real post tonight...

I have a riotous tale to tell about the evening that I became a salvage diver in the James River. But for tonight, you'll just have to come up with another way to amuse yourselves.


Monday, April 25

I do NOT understand

There are several things in this world that I do NOT understand.



Virus and Worm and Spyware and other evil stuff creators

The appeal of the Real Housewives of anyplace.

And the thing that I really, really do NOT understand? Scam artists.

Seriously - those people make me seriously question what level of hell I think they should be in. And I am a pacifist. But people who prey on their fellow man are a low level of life form. I would eat a stinkbug before I would purposely cheat someone out of money. That is how much I do not understand how people can do things like selling bogus cars (boats, parts, get the point) over the internet.

Been looking for a vehicle for a friend. A couple of weeks ago I almost walked into a scam myself! These people are extremely clever. It's a lot slicker than the Nigerian multi-millionaire who want to give to you my friend the amounts of... I was lucky enough to have bells go off in my head before I got anybody else excited about the super-fantastic deal I found.

Something just said... Google, Chris...Google.

It was almost a whispering wind.

I think that Google may have implanted some sort of subliminal messages in their products. I love Google. I want to sell my soul to Google.

Oh, wait...where was I?

Oh yeah - so thank God for my friend's internal bells and whistles going off when he found a super-fantastic deal of his own. He was the wisdom to email me. And I Googled this text from the email that came back to his inquiry via web form: I'm a pilot on cargo flights, my wife broke up with me recently because I'm always away from home. We just sold our house and split the money. This is the last thing I need to sell and split the money with her. Because I'm away most of the time I will not be able to deal in person, but I've already arranged the shipping and the title transfer anywhere in the US. I will pay the shipping fees. If you are still interested please email me back so I can explain how we can do this without me being present.

And there were probably hundreds of instances of the exact same phrase
on forums where people got scammed. Or were reporting potential scams. I only looked at a couple - but the same story crops up over and over. Hard working folks who were in a bind thought they found a great solution - like fate was briefly smiling upon them. And then they LOST AGAIN!! Because somebody out there doesn't want to go get a real job. They are evil.

And you know who the real loser in all of this is? Some day there is going to be a real cargo pilot whose wife breaks up with him because he is always away from home. And he is going to need to sell his vehicle fast. And he will be willing to part with it at a huge sacrifice and even pay to ship it to you. And nobody will believe him.

That is just sad.


Sunday, April 24

Last tail lights are up the hill...

It is time for a nap. It is 7:30pm and I need a nap.

What a wonderful day!! Easter has always been a favorite holiday and today was no exception. It was a bit less chaotic at church this morning than last week. Last week I had a mini-Seder meal to prepare, some sound design stuff to do (mostly accomplished by Carl), the choir did two pieces and during one of those I was part of an antiphonal trio (antiphonal meaning we pretty much echoed what the choir sang).

Today was relaxing - taught Sunday School, practice with trio and then choir for this morning's cantata, some sound design stuff (mostly accomplished on Saturday)... Okay, not exactly relaxing but what a fantastic job by the choir and the other two members of our trio!! We performed the Easter section of Allen Pote's A Season to Celebrate. It has a little 80's rock opera feel to it and I really liked it. People were very complimentary of the job everyone did (including my narration) and I think that Mom's payments must have gotten to everybody on time!

After church a bunch of family and friends gathered at our house for lunch and Easter egg hunting. That made me think back to 5 or 6 years ago when it rained on Easter. Jack and a friend were hunting for eggs inside. This was before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and at one point I realized that some of the eggs had been hidden on my person while I was snoozing. Ha ha, my sisters are SO funny.

It was a beautiful day. The food was delicious (including my contribution: beenie weenies with no beenies) and the 20-ish of us had a great afternoon. Slowly people trickled away and now the three housemates have been left alone again (yay!) and quiet reins over the land. I love my family. I love my nephews and niece. But now, I am ready for a nap. Or maybe it is just time for bed...whoot I'm tired!

Hamster beaten.

But the good news?

He is Risen!!

Friday, April 22

Lemon donut awaits

Knakal's lemon doughnut from Culpeper arrived today. Another proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Well - proof that my Mom loves me anyway. I have many favorite foods. Among them are crab newburg, gnocci bolognese, Reese cups, sushi, and lemon doughnuts.

These particular doughnuts are a rare treat because Knakal's Bakery doesn't make lemon ones on Saturdays - and that is usually when Mom and Dad are in Culpeper. But they decided to visit Aunt Gladys during the week this time - so I got a text earlier: Lemon donut awaits. And even though it was rainy outside - a little sunshine warmed my heart.

Aunt Gladys...don't tell anybody else, but she's my favorite.

Always has been. She was the kooky aunt that I think I am becoming for my nephews and niece. She married a man who was quite a bit older than she was. I think by about 25 years. He passed when I was really young, and they didn't have any she was this incredibly independent woman. She ran a print shop in Culpeper, long before the advent of the Xerox. I watched her set type and loved the smell of the ink and the presses. Sometimes she would let me make scratch pads. You'd stack up scrap paper and use this HUGE guillotine to make smooth edges - then you'd paint one edge with bright red wax. I thought that was awesome.

The print shop was in the basement of their house in downtown Culpeper - across the street from what I think is actually an Episcopalian or Lutheran church. When I was growing up I believed it was some sort of convent or monastery. All the stone and wrought iron I think... And their house was fantastic. It had long staircases in the front and back near the kitchen. And Gladys let us slide down the banisters. And she had a pool table upstairs! And though it may be a figment of my imagination (or a dream) - I think she had a little phone-booth-like closet that her phone was in. Hmm...that seems ridiculous even as I type it.

I DO remember that sometimes she would take us downtown to a building where there was a chair that rode up a flight of stairs. And she would let us each ride. It was awesome.

She was the aunt who would try things - she jumped on the mini-trampoline, she twirled my sister's baton, she laughed out loud!! And when I was in junior high or high school - she spent a year in the Philippines in the Peace Corps. I need to get her to tell me some more stories about those years.

I hope everyone has an Aunt Gladys.

I think we need more wacky Aunts.

Thursday, April 21

with a little help from my friends... is good to be loved...

Everybody gets a little overwhelmed sometimes. I'm pretty good at juggling multiple tasks and so it surprises no one but me...nobody can keep all the balls in the air ALL the time.

I wear a lot of hats: operations guru, church newsletter editor, daughter, sister, friend, choir member, handbell player. Kiwanian (and Kiwanis newsletter editor), tax return program liaison (not a paid preparer - remember that!)...and a few more...including blogger...

And so when I got tired and it all became too much - my friends stepped in with a great big hug. And some much-needed time off. And I feel much better now.

Thank you.

even got a little bit of river time! feels good...welcome back sun, just in time!

Wednesday, April 20

Choral Conspiracy

This weekend will mark the 3rd or 4th cantata that I have been the narrator for. Did you know that according to somebody - more people would rather be dead than speak in public? Don't ask me who said so, I think I saw it on the Today show. I am not one of those people. Give me a microphone and you'll have a hard time getting it back.

I dearly love the sound of my own voice.

Talking that is.

Singing, I'm too afraid to listen to recordings of me singing. I suspect that I sound like a dying bull moose. Which makes the fact that I have sung solos and duets - and now a trio - at Centenary United Methodist. I strongly suspect that there is a very kind
conspiracy going on.

For a long time now, I have believed that somebody is paying off people in the choir to let me continue to sing with them. Some sort of grand "Truman Show" of a vocal nature. But just like with the handbells...secretly...I'm having a great time. Whether they are being paid to be nice to me or not - I enjoy singing (especially with my usual duet partner Karen Bell, who has the voice of an angel) (she must be getting paid the most of all! Which is good because the school system pays bupkus).

This Sunday at Centenary UMC on Rivermont in Lynchburg (11am) you are
invited to come check it out for yourself. And if indeed - I sound like a dying bull moose - I ask you to let me know. Gently though - I also have an easily bruised ego.

We will be performing a mini-cantata that starts with the trio of Karen Bell, Maryann Sigler and myself performing a great song - Galilee Man. I really wish I could remember the name of the cantata. The three of us have been working under the tutelage of Johnson Scott and with the exception of last Thursday night (the first time we performed in front of the choir as a whole) - when we sort of choked...we sound great! Well - maybe.

It is entirely possible that Mom may have to increase her payments...

And at the end of the service it is a tradition at Centenary to sing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. Wow does that go up high!! If you can help us out on that one - everyone is welcome to join us in the choir loft for the benediction. It is a glorious experience - Karen Bell will end up in tears, but will still hit the high notes.

And then I will get to drink a Coke. Hallelujah.

Monday, April 18

Guilty of the Sin of Gluttony - but for a good cause!!

all I have to say is "dang - I'm stuffed!"

Okay, if that were really ALL I had to say then this would be a ridiculously short post. One that Chuck would never have found acceptable. And I have a great deal of respect for Chuck.

What am I talking about? The annual event "Lynchburg Cooks for Hunger Relief". And I know there will be a couple of you at the end of this post (or middle) who will say "oh Thanks Chris, tell me about this AFTER it's over. u suck." (yeah....u no who u r...and ur rite...I do)

Lynchburg Cooks - as I understand it - was the brain child of local restaurateur Rob Pearson. Read a bit about Charley's And it is fantastic. The event is a fundraiser for local charities that fight hunger. This year the charities are Bedford Christian Ministries, DAWN (Donation-A-Neighbors) and Park View Community Missions.

The one closest to my heart this year is Park View Community Missions which is part of Park View United Methodist Church. This is a scrappy little project started by a scrappy congregation that saw a need in the neighborhood they are a part of. And they are in a neighborhood in need - they feed 80-100 people each week on Wednesday nights; they give clothes and food; they are representing kindness in the world.

And I know that the other two charities are also doing great work. And because of the generosity of a bunch of local restaurants - those programs will get a much needed boo$t to their budgets. And those of us who were wise enough to get tickets (um, thanks Mom for getting us tickets...) - we got to enjoy that generosity. The event works like this: you buy a ticket for 25 bucks - you get to spend 2 hours sampling food from about 20 restaurants and drinking.

I tried some great food (and beer - there's this beer from Pennsylvania called Golden Monkey that I just loved!!) from some places that I don't always get to. This is about my 5th or 7th time attending. Sometimes I work a shift behind the bar... For about the last 4 years I have looked forward to these awesome crawfish from a place called Perkys. The place is in ALTAVISTA for crying out loud!! But they make the best crawfish I've ever eaten.

Tonight I had to send somebody else for my 3rd and 4th samples...gets embarrassing!! Now, I have to admit that I still haven't been to the restaurant itself...but I plan to...and I will give full review here when I do!

The event is fantastic - the restaurants trot out some of their best, there is a great variety, and the beer/wine flow... It's a pretty good deal. And it is for a good cause! Now if they'd just turn down the music a little...or am I just getting to be an old fart?

But I've got to say - that at the end of a Monday that was also TAX DAY! - that is one heck of a way to start a week!! Fund raising doesn't get any better than this!

chillin' hamster

Sunday, April 17

A Tradition Honored

Morning came early today. I knew I had a lot to get done to be ready when my senior high Sunday School class came in - and though I was tired...I hit the ground running.

Today was the culmination of a 3 week study of the traditions of a Passover Seder. Through our study we had discovered both the core traditions and some "new" contributions to the 3000 year old celebration. At the heart was an annual thanks to God for freeing the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. So we started there - and discussed what it would be like to have to work at the will of someone else. And then when Pharaoh took away the straw....what do you do then??

We discussed each of the plagues including the most terrible - the death of the firstborn. Since two of my 3 regular class members are the oldest in their family - I pointed out that they would be targeted. And then we talked about the specific instructions handed down to keep that from happening. And whether or not they thought their parents would follow the instructions!

So then we spent a couple of weeks looking at a Haggadah - which is the Seder service itself. The one that I chose was created by Jewish Voice Ministries who are Jews that believe Christ is the Messiah. I thought that was another interesting perspective because none of my class were aware that there were Jews who believed in Jesus Christ. In fact, until I worked with JVM as a client about 10 years ago...neither did I.

Today our class was joined by one junior high student - his teacher was out sick - and we explained what we were doing and why. He really embraced the event and was proud to be tapped as the youngest boy who reads the four questions. He was a little overwhelmed when I told him he had to read it in Hebrew...but quickly realized I was just kidding.

The class did a great job with the readings and didn't get too silly with the bitter herbs or the parsley dipped in tears (salt water). And when we got to the feast part of the Seder - they tried a lot of different dishes. We had matzo ball soup (um...didn't realize there would be only 3 balls in a can...but that was enough for everyone to have a taste, except me) and seasoned ground lamb. We had a few dishes that weren't Passover traditional - but were traditional to the Mediterranean area. And we did use Methodist Wine - Welch's Grape Juice. Methodist history tidbit: Welch's Grape Juice was actually developed as a substitute for wine in communion!

It was an interesting touch with an ancient tradition that continues in Jewish families to this day. I have a friend who is preparing to host her family's Seder right now. I know that her's will include a lot of foods and rituals that we didn't have time for in a class period - but I appreciated her encouragement. Next year we are hoping to include a larger group - maybe even inviting the whole church. When we got to the cup after the meal - one of our class said, this is just like the pastor says during communion "after supper he took the cup and blessed it".

Ah - the connection was made.

Perhaps if we all embraced our similarities instead of focusing on our differences...then world peace might be at our fingertips.

Food for thought.

Saturday, April 16

Blending Traditions - Honoring the Past while considering the Present

A briefer post this evening - I need to get some final preparations done for tomorrow morning's Sunday School class. I know this will seem a little out of the ordinary for a Methodist - but we are celebrating a Seder.

It was really only in about the last 10 years that I came to the realization that the Last Supper wasn't just Jesus' last meal. It was the time of Passover and because Jesus was a Jew (insert gasp here) he would have celebrating the holy observances like the Passover meal. That put a new sense of perspective on not only the gathering - but also his addition that came "when the supper was over": the beginning of what we as Christians now know as communion.

The Seder is full of symbolism - so our class has spent the last few weeks studying some of the aspects of the readings, rituals and foods that are part of a Seder. The text that we will be using is a Messianic Passover Seder. This was designed by Jews who DO believe that Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah. Until a few years ago, I wasn't aware that there are Christ-believing Jews.

It will be interesting to observe this historic tradition from a new point of view. We will have readings and will share in The Telling - which is a reminder of how God delivered the people from slavery in Egypt and watched over them in the desert. And I like how this particular Haggadah adds to that by drawing a parallel between God delivering the people of Israel and how God (in the person of Jesus) delivered us again. And how he continues to watch over us in our time in the desert.

And we will enjoy some traditional foods (parsley dipped in salt water to represent the tears of people in bondage; bitter herbs; lamb) and some culturally relevant foods (olives, matzah, matzo ball soup). I think it will be a very interesting observance - admittedly it is a few days early. It should really be observed on Maundy Thursday.

Now if I could just find a hamster in a yarmulke.
(guess this bunny will have to do!)

Friday, April 15

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Hamster Ignored

Was standing talking to a friend who reads the Beaten Hamster this evening. She was complimenting me on my Chuck Taylor Header and we wandered off on the topic of blogs. Her sister was also standing nearby and she said something to the effect of "I've given up and started reading your blog". Probably wasn't really posed in quite that negative a connotation (well, then again...tact isn't her strongest quality...) but her sister quickly jumped in and said how much she liked reading my stuff.

I understand a little bit of what Belva meant - for a long time the only blogs that I ever saw were pretty lifeless. Until I found the Smoking Nun - which is one of my favorite ways to drink my coffee and eat a PopTart in the mornings...

There is some ho-hum material out there. But there are these nuggets of wisdom or entertainment just have to dig and once you find something you like, keep coming back (keeps us from getting slack and not posting).

Then again - it may be like the Harry Potter series. I kept hearing how great it was. And how clever and how entertaining. (just like the B-Hamster) But I refused to get sucked into it for a long time. If that many people liked it - then it must be like Danielle Steele, fluffy stuff to entertain the unwashed masses. Well - then I read the first four books in about 2 weeks. I'm hooked - and I hope that Belva is now hooked on this!

So - back to the conversation with Melva (yeah...Belva and Melva...they are twins. The handy thing is that if you're talking about/to both of them you can shorthand it to Elvas). She was saying how she was amused by tales of my evil roommate. (lazy post) And I said "I didn't even tell about the puppy!" (hmmm...goes my material!)

I had some strange roommates through the years. My first year at King's Dominion I lived with my sister Denise and in the interest of family peace...I will tell no tales (yet). The second year I roomed with an odd co-worker who had a big cat. Couple of problems. One, she was either cheap as hell or liked to sleep in saunas. She refused to run the AC at night. In summer in Richmond. It was a nightmare. Would have been a little better if I had been able to open my bedroom window. But I couldn't, because the screen was missing and her cat liked to walk on the windowsill - outside. Second story window. I learned to sleep very still with a fan blowing across a bowl of ice cubes. And whenever anyone needed a house sitter - I was there.

So the next year I decided to room with some of the dancers. Because I was the only Virginia resident, most of the bills were in my name. And for 2 of my 3 roommates - not a problem. Something due, they had the $$. And Arthur taught me to color my hair. And that there was nothing wrong with watching a little gay porn during dinner. Tolerance is my middle name.

But then there was the other one. We'll call him Robert. Mostly because that is his real name. One day we came home and Robert had gotten a puppy. 4 people living in a 3 bedroom apartment (sometimes there was 5th person sleeping in the dining room) and without even asking...well, that takes some nerve. After about 3 weeks of dodging piles of puppy poop/etc. and dealing with Onyx under foot...while Robert was out sleeping with his latest conquest(s)... We had about enough.

And then the fateful Friday night... Robert was out doing who knows what with God knows who, Marf was hanging out with people someplace else and so Arthur and I decided to play Monopoly. There may have been an adult beverage or two involved. Arthur had run out of money and landed on one of my properties so in lieu of rent...I sent him to fix me a bowl of ice cream. We had corralled Onyx in the dining room/kitchen area; as Arthur stepped over the barrier - that dang puppy darted under foot and he stepped on him.

Suddenly the peaceful scene was chaotic. Puppy squealing every time it put weight on its leg and Arthur screaming "oh my god. oh my god. oh my god". Oh my God indeed. So after slapping Arthur and getting him to hold the puppy down on the carpet so it would stop trying to stand up, I started searching for an all night vet. There was exactly one. We called Robert to meet us there and headed over. Arthur in the back seat of my nifty K-car - both he and the puppy whimpering from time to time.

When we got to the emergency vet we told them that the owner of the puppy was on his way. And we waited. Me, Arthur and the broken puppy. 2 hours later we called Robert who told us that everyone at the party he was at was too messed up to drive. We told him in no uncertain terms that he was to get his drunken ass over there. After another hour it was clear that he wasn't going to show. So then we began the difficult process of getting the veterinary assistant gestapo to treat the broken puppy. Once I finally whipped out my credit card they relented.

I even sprung the extra 50 bucks to sedate the poor little thing while they set its leg. Which meant it had to stay until morning to be watched.

Whoo. By this time it is 3am and I knew I had to be at a work call at 10am. Sleep seemed so welcoming. But as we started to depart the gestapo reminded us that we needed to pick Onyx back up in the morning before closing time. At 7:30am.

Got home. Too wired to sleep I called my Aunt who worked 3rd shift on a switchboard. Then I took a nap for about 12.5 seconds. Got the puppy. Slept for 45 minutes. Went to work.

We had finished the work call stuff and were hanging out in the green room when the dancers started arriving for pre-show preparations. I was mentally and physically exhausted - basically was sitting at a table with 3 other techs and staring off into space. Robert walked in and strolled past the table we were sitting at. No possible way you could miss me. Just walked by. I'm told that my gaze followed him and that I glazed over in fury - it took three people to wrestle me out onto the stage. I was livid. Pacing. Throwing things.

The stage manager came out. Rich Mason. He was calm as he asked me if I was planning to damage Robert. Turns out that Robert was now hiding in the men's dressing room whimpering. Wise decision. I did not kill him. Onyx went to live someplace else.

Robert still owes me money from rent and collect phone calls to his boyfriend in Puerto Rico. I regret not damaging him then. If given the opportunity I might step on him.

Hamster glad to have good house mates now. Though sometimes I do miss watching the gay porn during dinner.

Look!! New art!!

Thanks to my awesome friend Chuck Taylor (the writer, not the shoe) I have a nifty new header!! It is 100% cool! What a great surprise - he was working on design stuff for another friend's new blog and just did this on a wild impulse.

He actually asked if I minded! What - are ya crazy??? I get something cool for my collection of synaptic misfires and I would mind?

As always - I urge you to run over to his blog and read it: The Smoking Nun. He's uber-talented. I'm just goofy. I do warn you - sometimes his posts are full of delightfully attractive lightly dressed men. It's all very tastefully done, I assure you.

And the most incredible thing that I just discovered?? Chuck mentioned my blog!!! I've arrived! Now I've got to get my act together and post regularly. I've been kind of lame this past week. I'd make excuses - but then what would I write about later?

Will ramble more later - I'm working!

Tuesday, April 12

Lazy post - excerpt alert!

hmm...something interesting...


nothing's coming to mind that I can write about.

Many things running through my mind - but there isn't anything I could put out there in public without breaking trust and/or laws. Just been one of those days. Weeks. Umm...years.

So in the interest of not disappointing my faithful reader - I present to you: yes, another selection from Oh my God, They're in the Driveway (the cookbook I began writing years ago and never finished). And as usual - I'm continuing to post this material without proofing it. Dangerous plan.


This is a dessert thing. But I'll admit to eating it for breakfast a few times. When you're living away from home, you'll eat almost anything for breakfast. I used to wake up at 10:00 for an 11:30 call time at the theatre and eat two cheese dawgs with barbecue sauce, no bun.

Buns cost too much. On days I was out of cheese dawgs, I'd eat Saltines with whatever I could squoosh together in between commercials. I had a lot of trouble with one particular roommate stealing my food, so Saltines I was able to keep in my closet, locked in my suitcase.

A big tip on roommates: Don't buy food that you're not willing to share and lock up anything that you don't have to keep in the refrigerator. I swear my closet looked like an aisle from Kroger's. As far as the cream cheese stuff, I just never told anyone what it was, so they didn't have the courage to try it. Wimps. How I got on this subject, I'll never know...but makes for great reading, I think. Yeah, I'm sure of it. Highly educational stuff. Actually I'm a very generous person, but this particular slimeball also stuck me with a four hundred dollar phone you can understand why I would be inclined to hide stuff like food and cash.

Hopefully, the dog will read this and feel so guilty that he'll send me my money, after all...I'm not a wealthy person. But, as usual, I digress.

Strawberry cream cheese. I remember.

  • one block of cream cheese (Oooo...what an original thought.)

  • a can of strawberries or about a pint of fresh strawberries (I personally am writing this in the middle of the winter, so fresh strawberries seem quite far away)

  • two teaspoons of sugar (or you can steal a couple of those little packets from the Waffle House or wherever it was you ended up last night for breakfast at 3:30 am.)

** Soften the cream cheese (another original thought).

Squoosh in the sugar, this slightly sweetens the cheese, to make the fruit go better with it. Just trust me on this one. Add the well-drained strawberries. And I do mean well drained. Otherwise there's too much water and the whole stuff gets to be a bit slimy. Not a particularly good word for a recipe, huh? Mix the stuff together well, but without totally destroying the fruit. Oh, by the way, if you're using fresh strawberries, it would be a real good idea to slice them first, otherwise, you just have cream cheese coated strawberry blobs. Which is just nifty, if that's the result you're looking for, but was it?

And if the canned ones are particularly large, slice them too. I personally never kept a sharp knife in the kitchen when I had that one demented roommate. I was always a little concerned that he was going to knife me for drug money.

Perhaps I was a little paranoid, but you weren't living with him, were you? He was about half a bubble off level, if you know what I mean. Don't ask why I was living with him, not that we were "living together", perish the thought...I'd rather sleep with a copperhead. And I HATE snakes. But I'm sure I'll get into that somewhere in the book, keep looking for it. Back to the original subject, whatever the heck it was. Oh yeah, strawberry cream cheese. Basically, you've got it together now. All you need to know is how best to eat it. The ideal is NOT on Saltines watching Designing Women reruns waiting for the psycho to get out of the shower. The ideal is on fresh baked french bread, with nice crusty edges, lightly buttered and then heavily coated with strawberry cream cheese. I also like to include a glass of light white wine. But, to avoid offending any readers who may take a strong view against the spirits, drink a Sprite and don't worry about my soul. Going to hell can only be a continuation of living with the deadbeat. And at least there will be good bourbon there.

While I still have your attention, try this one with a variety of fruits. I suppose I could create six or seven different recipes with the same message, but as I've said before, I'm not getting paid by the word. So far, I've used mandarin oranges, blueberries, blackberries, cherries (ick), apples (double ick), and pineapple.

Most, except for the two noted, were nifty. The mandarin oranges were exceptional and obviously I thought the strawberry was the best. You decide for yourself. Did you think I was going to have all the answers?

Monday, April 11

Quest for Motivation

A brief post on posting...

I've come to the end of another day...and I still haven't posted. I told myself that if I got out of the shower and one of my housemates was on the computer - I'd give myself a free pass to another night. Should've known this would be one of those nights that they would both go to "read" (which really means looking at a book until it hits one of them in the nose.
The other of them reads lying on her stomach - so she smacks her face DOWN into the book. Um...I think this might be an indicator of who I'm talking about...oops)

So - in actuality, I accomplished several things tonight. As I drove home, I had great and lofty goals for myself. I was going to take a walk up the street, get any recycling out of my vehicle, check the water and chemicals in the hot tub, clean my room, vacuum, take out the trash, take out the recycling, change the sheets and try to figure out why the cat is acting weird. Oh - and continue my tasks of not drinking Coke, eating McGriddles or watching Toddlers and Tiaras. So THAT list IS complete!! Um - of the other list?

I didn't take that walk. Why? Especially after seeing my friend Sheila Diane this weekend who has been walking and not smoking and didn't want any Tootsie Rolls at the river (well - frankly, after we figured out that the mouses had been in them - nobody wanted them). She's doing so awesome. But I didn't take that walk. I think it was because I saw neighbors out and didn't want to explain that I was walking up the road for no particular reason. Why should that matter? Perhaps I will speak to my head shrinking friend about that...

And I forgot to get the recycling out of the truck...but I'm pretty sure it is just a couple of newspapers. But I did add water and found the hot tub chemical levels were perfect! And I did get the trash out of my half of the house, took out my recycling, vacuumed and spoke with the cat. Still no idea why it is acting weird - and the sheets (and adding water to my bed...) will wait until tomorrow.

So...when I was getting ready for bed...I knew there was one more thing to do...
Entertain you by talking about absolutely nothing.


Tomorrow, another list. Just need to remember to be inspired by the good examples of people in my life who "just do it". Perhaps next I should give up procrastination. I had a book about that - but I never got around to reading it. And that's not even a joke.

Maybe I loaned it to Mom...I'll go check under her head...

Hamster motivation level = 2.5 stars out of 4. Maybe tomorrow will be even better. WWCD?


Friday, April 8

The Longest Meal...

Another remarkable dinner at Monte Carlo. It isn't just the Gnocci Bolognese. Or the Caesar salad whose dressing did not come from a bottle. And of course, it isn't the atmosphere...this is a traditional Italian restaurant. The only thing missing would be the chianti bottle with a candle in it. And I may just not have looked around enough.

It's just incredibly down to earth. Dinner has just enough "event" feeling to it that you know you've been out to dinner. There's garlic bread and a carafe of water. The chef Fillipo wanders through the dining room greeting folks and then snags an empty plate from a table and disappears into the kitchen. He has an easy grace about him. He makes you feel welcome and unhurried.

And that is exactly what dinner was...relaxed and unhurried. It was an oasis in a long and hectic week. Of course, my dining companion is often an oasis in a hectic life. I hope everyone has a friend who fills that role.

I love a relaxing meal. Especially if it involves great food. I promised in a repressed rabbit trail (click here) that I would tell about the longest meal I ever had. And I realize that there are at least three that would qualify for telling. Maybe 4. Two of them involved my friend Dan Jenkins. Dan lives in British Columbia now - so we don't get to share our passion for food very often anymore. Quite appropriately, Dan is a waiter for a great restaurant on a ski hill up there now...makes perfect sense. He earned his Bachelors in Physical Education. I knew he wasn't bound for least not yet.

When he lived in Virginia we went to a restaurant up in Nellysford, near Wintergreen. It's gone I won't bore you with food that you'll never be able to have. All I can say is - I miss the He-Crab pizza. It was alfredo, crab meat, mandarin oranges, walnuts and a few crispy spinach leaves. And cheese. It was great...and I can't replicate it. That meal was about 2 1/2 hours but it was also a 45 minute drive each way. We knew we were going to have some great wine with dinner - but we got a wild hair and decided to get a bottle of Boones Farm to drink on the way. I believe it was some sort of citrus thing. We drank it out of the bottle in a paper bag. We arrived laughing and shared appetizers and pizza and two bottles of wine. And it was a wonderful meal.

There was a great meal that I had at a wine geek weekend at Virginia Tech. That was a great weekend. Friday evening wine tasting in the President's Box (no game...just kind of event) (there was food too...I'm pretty sure...) and then wine classes (!) Saturday. And then there was dinner. 7 courses. 22 wines. It started with sparkling wines at 8pm. I headed toward bed (I stayed at the Inn at Virginia drinking and driving!) at midnight. So...that was a 4 hour dinner. And it ranks right up there with the best.

A meal with Dan in Canmore, Alberta will probably always rank as the best lunch ever. We drove downtown with the intention of getting a coffee and early lunch at 11am. When we left and got back to the van we were stunned to see that the clock said 4:45. Especially since he was supposed to be at work at 5 in Banff (20 minutes away). That was just an incredible experience. Dan is not a person to be rushed anyway...but this was just a whole new level of laid back. We drank a coffee while we decided on wines. We were sitting by the fireplace and so then while we waited for the red wine to shake off the chill of the cellar - we had a short brandy. And we wandered through a shared appetizer and a salad...then we'd decide on a dish, and order...and then talk and laugh and drink.

I know this all sounds a little like an alcoholic coma...but when you stretch a bottle between two people and over's just a warming effect. And the wine in Canmore was incredible - I found another bottle or two over the years: Cal de Solo Big House Red. And actually, we drank two bottles that day. We couldn't decide on a, naturally...

So, that meal was about 5 hours. Only one that I can recall went longer. And until I started this post...I think I had forgotten it. Makes me smile to recall though. Nelson Webber, Rick Sanders and I were working on the set for a show. Probably 12th Night. Don't know why I think that is what it was...and it isn't important anyway. We worked till about 2 and headed to the Cavalier for lunch. If you're not from Lynchburg then you won't know this classic tavern on Rivermont Avenue. Wooden tables and booths covered from years of people like us carving our names and initials. License plates on the walls and ceiling. Pictures of people who then look strangely familiar to you...even though you probably haven't met. World's smallest bathrooms. It's a dive. Guy Fieri should come.

Anyway, we got to the Cav at about 2:30 for lunch. Left when the bar closed at 2am. I guess we finished that set another day. 11 1/2 hours. That's one hell of a lunch. Was certainly cheaper than the meal in Canmore...or Nellysford...and considering what I dropped on that weekend at VT!! (how I spent my stimulus money). Well, I believe that the best value per hour would go to the Cav.

But the memorable-ness of all 4 are pretty much due to the people involved.

And the wine.

Hamster chilled out.

Tuesday, April 5

A Fearsome Fivesome Adventure

If you know nothing about Chip Shop - read that post. That may help make this tale of Adventure make more sense.

Tonight I had the experience of eating dinner with 5 teenage girls. Or preteen. 7th and 8th graders. Not sure what age that makes you. 13ish? Wow. Loud.

We went to the extremely exciting world of the Hibachi Super Buffet. The Stupor Buffet. First of all, the place kind of puts you in a trance anyway. It is like the Walmart of buffets. Everything is there. Salad - greens and toppings and slaws and jellos and fruit and etc. Fried - wings, egg rolls, spring rolls, dumplings, chicken nuggets, shrimp, mini corndogs, wontons. Chinese - soup, beef brocoli, mixed "seafood", sweet and sour, general tsao. Japanese. Hibachi and sushi. And macaroni and tacos and meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Then chocolate fountain and fruit and cake and ice cream and candy. See? Stupor buffet.

I was accompanied by the five young ladies who had saved up their chips - spending sparingly in the chip shop and working hard to earn - to go on the Fearsome Foursome Adventure: eat at a foreign food restaurant. (secretly I was hoping for Thai...maybe in the Fall) Since all five of them are friends I stretched the Foursome to a Fivesome. And it surely was an adventure!!

I'm not sure I was as loud as a teenager as some of them could be - but I'm sure I shared some of the characteristics of each of them. Cautiously I will share observations of each, no names - and there's a little of each in all of us, I think. One young lady was clearly excited about the outing - you could see a little extra care in the clothes, hair. And she embraced the diversity of the spread.

One young lady especially embraced the opportunity to try new things. She did eat the whole piece of sushi! And she ate a little bit of raw salmon. I was impressed.She was high energy and she enjoyed being part of the circle as much as the food.

The young lady who sat across from me managed to get past the ick factor of my sushi to ask about what was in it. She ate mussel. And she ate a pretty good size piece of raw salmon.

The fourth is no stranger to varied foods. I think that someone in her house has encouraged her to try things. She ate several pieces of sushi. She showed me a pic on her phone of a great looking stir fry that she had made last night! She's a bit of a foodie. I love that.

And then there's a diamond in the rough. She's a little loud and not always well-mannered - but she's so incredibly vibrant! She laughs without reserve.

We were sort of accompanied by Mom and Dad. We needed at least two adults in the church van to satisfy our Safe Sanctuary guidelines. Just a good idea anyway. So Dad drove and then he and Mom ate at a separate table. The girls were able to just relax and we were all able to laugh and talk. And we practiced being polite to our server and not to frighten fellow patrons. We may not have been successful at the 100% of the time, but the seed was at least planted. Joslyn was patient and attentive and got a big old tip.

It was a bit unplanned - we had not been able to set a date, conflict with this schedule or that...and on Sunday I got a text from one of them asking about going that day. I was tied up so I asked her to check and see if everyone could go Tuesday or Wednesday. I didn't hear anything till a call about 3:30 this afternoon - I got my spare chaperones and we just did it.

Probably best.

And it was really a great evening!

But my ears are still ringing!! :)

Monday, April 4

An Equal Measure

Yesterday's post sparked an interesting mix of conversation. Blog readers who aren't facebook friends (and why would that be? I'll be your friend!) or who don't arrive via the facebook link may not have noticed. The only comment as of this moment is from my friend Lee. He's super cool - I like he and his family a whole lot. Lee seems like a balanced person. I'd like to sit down sometime with him and break bread...I think that he would be an interesting person to chat with for an afternoon.

(I have this incredibly tempting rabbit trail I want to go down about the longest lunch I ever had. There are two good stories in there...but I'm going to stay on topic. But somebody ask me about that sometime...)

And a moment ago I saw the conversation in another light - and it struck me so - that I have put down a very delicious looking dinner to write it down.

Below the posts are an interactive way to remark on the quality and subject matter - Reactions. I've got three choices for you: Amusing, Thought-Provoking, and Odd. You can click on one of those - you don't have to register or write or think very hard about it. Just a reaction.

Yesterday's posts (currently) are equally split between "Amusing" and "Thought-Provoking". You can read it for yourself by hitting "Older Post" - it's WAYYYY down there...on the right. But the topic was striving to be less of a Nit Picker and more of a Picnicker. I am deeply philosophical this evening on the balance of Amusing and Thought-Provoking-ness of my writings yesterday.

I will attempt to verbalize my train of thought (this will not be train travels
like the great glass elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - sideways and slantways and backways and frontways).

There are some people who have matured - emotionally, not necessarily chronologically - to a point beyond Nit Picking. I'm not saying that is a lot of people. But those look on that pettiness of endless nitpicking with amusement. And there are folks who - looking at themselves on a deep level who - perhaps like me - realize the areas that we nit pick when we aren't being aware of it. They find it thought-provoking to consider.

And both those types of people are probably pretty much picnickers at heart - embracing the moments in life that are really important.

I know a whole lot of picnickers. What other folks would read a blog called The Beaten Hamster? You've got to have a lot of picnic in your heart to embrace the quirkiness of the author.

Going back to my dinner now. As soon as I go heat it back up.

Navel gazed. Hamster embracing the abundance of life's picnic.

Sunday, April 3

Nit Pickers and Picnickers

Nit Pickers and Picnickers was the topic of today's sermon. I've said it before (well - maybe not here) and I'll say it again...that Rick Ecklund is one heck of a speaker. He combines a great balance of humor and serious message.

Nit Pickers are easy to point out (although I wasn't allowed to do that during the sermon - my friend Karen said that would be inappropriate). Um...that may make me a Nit Picker right there!

But as he said - they're the people that can find the dark cloud in every silver lining. "what a beautiful wedding - but I think the bride could have lost a couple pounds." "what a lovely day - it'll probably storm later" "I love your city - the taxes must be high!"

But as much fun as it is to point out THOSE people...the nit pickers. (once again - I'm pretty sure that makes ME one!)

That isn't where the sermon ended.

Nope. Because on the other end of the spectrum are the Picnickers. As Rick pointed out - they are the people who are willing to put up with a little discomfort, like sitting on the ground and sharing food with bugs - to enjoy the sun and fun of a picnic. Picnics have always been among my favorite experiences. I love the food of picnics - chicken, hot dogs, chips, trail mix. Of course, in my family picnics could also include the unusual like goat cheese or pickled okra.

Picnics are almost always in fun places - parks, beaches, hiking trails. I remember some great picnics at the pool when I was a kid. We belonged to a community pool - and some days we'd get down to the pool early in the afternoon and swim until dinner time. By then I was waterlogged and STARVING!!

Mom would arrive with a bag full of good stuff. Potted meat, Vienna sausages (that I'm pretty sure aren't really from Vienna), saltines and sardines...cheese and crackers and I'm sure
there was probably some lunch meat and bread. My favorite thing in the bag was always Penrose Hot Sausages. They're a crazy little pickled sausage and I loved them. Haven't had them in ages!

Anyway - my point (and I think it was Rick's point too) is that there are folks who can forgo the comforts of table, silverware and napkin for the joy of a picnic. And there are some people who can find discomforts at even the most beautiful table (pardon me waiter, there is a spot on my salad fork...).

I know I can be both kinds of people - I want to try harder to be a picnicker and spend less time nit picking. I think I can do it. I think we all can.

Hamster beaten.

Friday, April 1

Crisis Line Wishlist

So - I briefly mentioned in last night's mini-post that I saw the Little Red Haired Girl. She was part of a blog post back when I first started writing ( And she is still just as sweet as she was when she worked for ChickFilA.

On Wednesday I was part of a fund allocation review team for the local United Way. Our job is to meet with an agency that is requesting funds - we find out what they do, how they do it and what the results are.

We examine the financial health of the agency and try to be able to make a good recommendation to the United Way whether we feel they deserve the funding level that they have requested.

I was the first to arrive at Crisis Line (! First to arrive!) and I was speaking with one of the staff to let them know who I was (I figured everyone else must already be in the conference room...) and moments later a figure said "hey! How are you?" For about two beats, I searched my memory...I knew I knew her...but where???? And then she said that she worked at CFA. I said "OH! The little red haired girl!! I blogged about you once! But I couldn't remember your name!"

Kayla then told me she was interning at Crisis Line - her major is youth ministry with a minor in business. She is non-profit staff bound! We only had a couple of minutes to chat but she is definitely in the right line of work. She's just a wonderful warm and caring human being. I'm glad I got to see her again. It was a bright spot in a rainy day - just like she always was at CFA!!

The visit at Crisis Line (which also manages the Sexual Assault Response Program) went well. It is one of those situation that could be really tense. After all, we help determine some pretty critical funding for them. And in the current economic climate, both sides know that 100% funding is unlikely.

But the staff is stretching every penny so thin that there is little to criticize about their finances. And they are piled on top of each other in donated office space (bless Centra for their contribution!).
The conference room that I thought my people might be in? Um...non-existent. These folks have offices in closets. There are three people sharing an office that is about 10 x 10! I was really impressed by their efficiency and plan to recommend that they get as many dollars as United Way can shake loose.

I asked a question in our "interview": "Hey, understand that this is a pipe dream - but if we were able to get you 110% of your requested funding...what would you spend the extra money on?" That question threw both of the staff members in the room for a minute. But then they said "you know, we'd love to have headsets for everybody." These are folks who - 24/7 - answer PHONES with people in crisis on the other end of the line.

They could be on a call for minutes or an hour. Yeah - I think that headsets for everybody would be a real nice thing. I'm not going to be able to get that $$ out of the United Way. But I've got to figure out a way to make that happen. It's not an unreasonable fact, it's downright humble.

Nobody likes to have their work/mission/finances examined. Even constructive criticism kind of stings. (I got a review this week of the church newsletter I edit. He didn't like the amount of clip art. He didn't like the column structure. I lacked here...and there... And the one page he did like? I don't!) But the folks at Crisis Line took every suggestion to heart and were pleased that our team was there.

Their wishlist is some money for staff, paper to feed the copier and a few bucks for marketing. And their dream would be a few phone headsets. That's pretty incredible. THEY are pretty incredible.

Hamster impressed - and intrigued!